Task force calls for acquisition improvements at DHS

The Homeland Security Department is falling short in managing its technology acquisitions and needs to strengthen its efforts in that area, according to a new report prepared by a Homeland Security Advisory Council task force.

The 24-page report issued by the Essential Technology Task Force chaired by George Vradenburg III, a former executive of America Online, was adopted by the council June 25.

The task force recommended that DHS beef up its acquisition unit, create a robust departmentwide acquisition strategy and improve engagement with the private sector.

The department suffers from systemic weaknesses in implementing new technologies needed for homeland security, the report said. Most significantly, it lacks a departmentwide strategic planning processes, and it is having difficulties hiring enough trained, skilled personnel to manage complex acquisitions.

Although establishment of the Acquisition Program Management Division in the office of the chief procurement officer was a good start, the division won't be fully staffed until fiscal 2010, the report said.

"Lack of trained and experienced DHS acquisition personnel creates an inability to supervise private-sector systems integrators or to communicate with the program's intended operators through conception, development and support phases," the report said.

The task force recommendations are:
  • Build a high-performance acquisition function.
  • Adopt a departmentwide requirements management process.
  • Develop a departmentwide acquisition strategy.
  • Improve engagement with the private sector.
  • Manage innovation through a variety of approaches.
  • Use DHS' regulatory and standard-setting role to create economies of scale.
  • Continue to advocate for fewer congressional committees overseeing DHS.

The task force met from September 2007 to May 2008.

It noted that DHS is developing a Deliberate Planning Process, and it recommended that the process be linked to the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and Office of Net Assessment.

"Until these pieces are in place and linked, DHS will remain hampered, lacking an overarching process that ties present budgetary expenditures to future requirements," the report said.

Federal contractors provide many technologies to DHS, such as information technology solutions for information sharing, data mining, tracking and logistics, warning and alerts, surveillance, identification management, situational awareness, communications and cybersecurity.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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